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DVD review: 'Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon'

Gene Triplett Modified: May 15, 2013 at 12:18 pm •  Published: November 20, 2011

Most young would-be rockers aspire to stardom for fame and fortune — and, of course, love for the music — but for the brothers and cousin in Kings of Leon it was an angry rebellion,

and a desperate means of escape from oppressive and threadbare beginnings.

That much is clear from viewing “Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon,” director Stephen C. Mitchell’s documentary on the Followills — siblings Nathan, Caleb, Jared and cousin Matthew — and their impossible rise from a poverty-ridden, strict Pentecostal upbringing in rural Oklahoma and Tennessee settings, and the backseat of itinerant preacher Ivan Leon Followill’s ramshackle Oldsmobile, to international rock stardom, and smoking dope and getting trashed on private jets.

“Bein’ poor isn’t fun,” Kings of Leon frontman Caleb says during one interview. “It’s embarrassing. It’s one of those things that you strive to get out of and you strive to never have your family go through. We were livin’ in the worst of the worst ghetto in Oklahoma City. Literally had two pairs of pants, me and Nathan. I would wear one, he would wear the other, my mom would wash ‘em, and the next day we would wear the others.”

The brothers weren’t allowed to watch TV unsupervised, and listening to “the devil’s music” was strictly forbidden, according to stories confirmed by their mother, BettyAnn. Recent backstage footage openly reveals that the hard-partying Followills are more than making up for childhood deprivation, raising more hell than heaven these days, although they apparently remain true believers.

But the Followills’ backwoods kinfolk prove more interesting than the rock stars themselves as Mitchell’s camera follows them to a good old fashioned family reunion in Talihina, OK, where all ages and sizes of drawling, God-fearing, shack-dwelling aunts, uncles and scores of cousins, unwind with horseshoe pitching, beer swilling and swimmin’ in the crick.

Precious little is learned about the Kings as individuals, although one suspects their full-tilt rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle needs to downshift a bit, but this painfully honest look at the band’s down and dirty roots, some of it seen through family home movies, explains much about what fuels the emotional fire of Kings of Leon’s angular alt-Southern rock (of which too little is heard on the soundtrack).

DVD extras include 20 minutes of deleted scenes, commentary tracks from band members, Mitchell and producer Casey McGrath, and 5.1 DTS Surround.

— Gene Triplett

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